The Omega, Red-Hill community, Paynesville became a dramatic scene on the night of August 20, 2021, when criminal gangs in the community set ablaze the home of Matthew Menwo, secretary of the vigilante group that counters criminal activities in the community.
According to community residents, the harassment of peaceful citizens on a daily basis has become a regular occurrence in the last two years.
A community member, who fears giving names, said, “When it is after 7 PM, those guys group themselves and stand on the road. They beat and harass people and take away their valuable items at times, and when you challenge them, they beat and strip you naked.”
Matthew Menwo, a victim, said in an interview that due to the constant harassment of peaceful citizens, the community leadership, in collaboration with a group of men referred to as ‘Kapawo-Kapawo’, decided to establish a vigilante team that will protect the neighborhood during the night.
Menwo said after the vigilante group had worked for a few nights, the criminals in the community grouped themselves against the team on grounds that “The Vigilante group’s presence was hindering them from carrying on their activities.”
“Those community boys continue to threaten us that they will hunt and kill all the vigilante men one after another, and that was how, this gone Sunday, we had a meeting with the ‘Kapawo-kapawo’ people and the leader of the gang, Mohammed, (alias Gabon) and his men started to beat one of our members, but we overpowered them,” Menwo said.
Menwo said during the riot, he was threatened that his house would be set ablaze that very night, a statement he overlooked.
“When the tension came under control around 1 AM, I was told that my zinc shack was set ablaze by Abu Kennedy, assistant to Mohammed. At the time of the burning, my wife and her sister who came to visit were asleep.”
Menwo said, “We put off the fire and my wife and the children went to sleep in a neighbor's house nearby and we the vigilante men hid ourselves around. After a long period of time, Abu came out running and that was how he was arrested and turned over to the police.”
Menwo added that his home was destroyed with US$100, and L$6,000 and all of their belongings.
Eliastu Kanteh Bah, sister of Mohammed, the alleged head of the criminal group, confirmed that her brother is a very violent person who embarrasses peaceful citizens.
“I was lying down that night when I received information that the vigilante group and ‘Kapawo-Kapowo’ people were killing my brother, but I did not take it seriously because he is violent and has a lot of group behind him,” Eliastu said.
Eliastu said after the allegation that Mohammed set the house ablaze, the vigilante group went to his home and started to beat on his family members and destroy his home including properties.
She said she is also taking legal action against the team because crime is not transferable.
The case was taken to the Omega depot and later forwarded to the Omega Magisterial Court.
According to the writ of arrest, Abu is charged with arson and criminal mischief.